Monday, June 8, 2015

The Dining car

Sometimes a byte of news comes across,  that creates a soothing sort of feeling or makes you feel good, though it has no direct bearing on your present concerns. Not only that; most probably,  you may never have to do anything with the event covered by it. Even then,  the news makes you happy.

I had similar feelings, when I came across the news that railways have reintroduced the dining car on one of the prestigious trains that runs between Mumbai and Pune; The Deccan Queen. To be frank, I have not travelled by Deccan Queen since last ten years. In fact, I have not travelled by any train for last five years or so, nor do I see any possibility of travelling by train in near future. Yet, the news of reintroduction of dining car made me feel nice because of the past memories of having spent many relaxing hours.

In 1950’s my father would travel by Deccan Queen for company work. He would tell us how comfortable the train was. He would sometimes bring packed snacks from the dining car. In those years Deccan queen was a short train having 6 or 7 carriages with a dining car in the center. All rakes would be first class carriages. Perhaps because of that, my father never took us by that train when we travelled to Mumbai and obviously I had no occasion to visit Deccan Queen’s dining car and had to be satisfied with the home cooked stuff carried by mother.

After I grew up, I started travelling alone by trains. Yet Deccan Queen eluded me. Later, railways introduced third class carriages on the train. I could travel by Deccan queen, but dining car still remained out of bounds as it was meant only for first class travellers. Much later, when I had a real job and started earning, I could afford to travel by Deccan queen and visit its dining car.

It turned out exactly as I had imagined it to be. There were tables on both sides with four normal chairs per table for sitting. The ordered food was served in real china crockery with cups and soccers for tea or coffee. Soft drinks would be in glasses. They served special dishes like fried fish on return leg of the trip from Mumbai to Pune. Fresh fish would be procured in Mumbai to make these. Many regular travellers ordered packed dishes for taking home. I can still remember drinking steaming hot cups of tea watching foggy mornings I'm Khandala ghats or a soothing lime juice with soda as train roared through parched Deccan plateau in dark late evenings.

Things started changing with time. The old train carriages were replaced with chair car and then with AC cars with cramped sitting. The dining car food started to be served in paper dishes and plastic glasses. Soft drinks were served in bottles. In that period I used a few tricks such as ordering some special dishes like fried or scrambled eggs, which were still served in China dishes and drinks like lime juice with soda still being served in proper drink
Glasses. I believe that now a days they do not serve the special dishes
With only standardised dishes available.  That has not made much of difference to the dining car lovers. For dining car lovers food was not the only reason. They went there for the ambience and the fellowship of co- travellers.

All this was lost last year when railways withdrew the dining car from the queen. There was wide spread resentment, which has forced the railways to bring back the dining car. I am sure that all admirers of the queen will be mighty pleased that. The legacy of the queen stands restored.

1st June 1015

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